Wigan Athletic man's Portsmouth regret after achieving Championship dream

Jack Whatmough has relived his pain at failing to deliver second-tier football with Pompey after becoming a Championship player.

By Jordan Cross
Sunday, 26th June 2022, 6:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th June 2022, 6:15 pm

And the Gosport lad has thanked those with PO4 ties who played their part in helping him make the strides, which will finally see him operating one step from the Premier League.

Whatmough has picked up a host of accolades after playing a central role in helping Wigan to the League One title, in an ever-present league campaign for the Latics.

Whatmough enjoyed a League Two title success at Fratton Park in 2017, but he admitted not being able to take the next step with Pompey was a regret.

Speaking to EFL Magazine, he said: ‘Being a local lad, I took a lot of personal responsibility for the inability to get promoted when we had such a good opportunity to do so.

‘Three and a half years ago, Portsmouth were clear at the top in January and then slid into the play-offs.

‘I was desperate to help them get promoted, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Former Pompey defender Jack Whatmough won the League One title with Wigan this season. Picture: Lewis Storey/Getty

‘Now, I’m just looking forward to testing myself in the Championship for the first time with Wigan.

‘It was tough to make that decision to leave, but at some point, in any job you do, sometimes you just get to that stage where you need something new and I felt I was at that point.

‘I’ll always be grateful to Portsmouth for giving me that opportunity in football. There were a lot of good people in the club who wanted to help.

‘Andy Awford gave me my debut at 17 in his first game as caretaker manager against Southend. I remember him telling me to bring all my family down because I’d be making my debut.

Former Pompey duo Tom Naylor and Jack Whatmough won League One promotion with Wigan last term. Picture: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

‘Originally, I said I needed three tickets, but Andy called my mum and it ended up being about 13 people coming along.

‘He was incredible – he just knew when to give you a compliment and when to bring you back down to earth.

‘Then there was Jon Slater (head of education). As a second-year scholar, I was travelling a lot with the first team and would miss a lot of education sessions on a Wednesday.

‘He would take the time to sit with me on a Thursday afternoon after training to help me stay on track. He also spoke to us a lot about life after football, which kept us all level-headed.’

Whatmough went through a number of injury issues in his time at Pompey, which have been well documented.

That led to him turning to alcohol and gambling to deal with his issues, as first reported in The News in 2020, before confronting his issues by turning to Sporting Chance - the clinic set up Tony Adams to support athletes with mental or emotional issues.

He was appreciative of their backing, as well as support former boss Kenny Jackett and his now wife Demi, a former Pompey sales executive.

Whatmough added: ‘I think that’s one thing that doesn’t get spoken about enough within football.

‘It’s tough enough when you’re playing and things might not be going perfectly on the pitch, but to be injured and have to go through that feeling of not being able to help the team, it can become mentally tough and that’s something I did find.

‘My girlfriend at the time, who I’ve just recently married, was incredible when I had to go through that.

‘We rearranged the house so that I could avoid having to go up and down the stairs for two months and she helped me shower and everything.

‘In those first couple of months, you really are just stuck in a room all day, every day, which can be really difficult. You look for a buzz that isn’t football and I turned to alcohol and gambling, which obviously wasn’t the best thing.

‘Like a lot of blokes, I was a bit too proud to ask for that help at first, but as soon as I spoke about how I was feeling, it was a weight off my shoulders.

‘I went to Sporting Chance and spoke to a guy called Barry for a few weeks – the level of support you can receive as a footballer is incredible.

‘It was really good to sit down and speak to someone who didn’t know me, so it was a different voice and a different opinion, rather than my family or the club. That really worked well for me.

‘Portsmouth were incredible as well. Kenny Jackett was the manager at the time and I spoke to him on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes – he was very supportive. Clubs don’t look down on you when you’re struggling; they try to help.

‘Speaking out is definitely a lot healthier than bottling things up. It was stupid what I was trying to do, but that’s way behind me now and I’m really enjoying my life again.’